There comes a time in every young girl’s life where she has to take off the cowboy hat, drop the acoustic guitar, and turn her back on the shit-kicking hicks who’ve ensured she’ll never have to pole-dance in a Tennessee trailer park for a living. Following a template laid out by the likes of Shania Twain and Carrie Underwood, the insanely cute Taylor Swift makes a big, bold statement on Red, her fourth studio outing.
Forget being a little bit country, the 22-year-old superstar from Reading, Pennsylvania, is all pop ’n’ roll here, the album marked by Grand Canyon–size drums, into-the-stratosphere guitars, and the kind of mega-club beats that have launched a thousand duck-face photos.
The extent of the singer’s ambition is laid out right off the top, on “State of Grace”, a chiming alt-rocker that’s all high-drama perfection, from Swift’s gorgeous, wounded-by-the-world vocals to the mournful cellos burning in the background.
Those who remember when Alanis Morissette was the biggest pop star on the planet will find plenty to love in the vocal showcase that is “I Knew You Were Trouble”. From there, Swift makes it clear that she’s not living in some clued-out pop-culture bubble (hello, LastNightsParty people) on “22”, which starts out with “It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters and make fun of our exes.” She also shows that she’s just as at home playing things tough (as on the thumping “Holy Ground”) as she is going the touchingly tender route (“The Moment I Knew”).
If there’s one criticism you can level at Red, it’s that the back half of the album slows down to a crawl, but that’s nothing a cover of, say, Soundgarden’s “Jesus Christ Pose” wouldn’t have solved. Overall, after seven years in the business, our little girl has finally grown up, to the point where she pretty much looks unstoppable. Sorry, Nashville-country fans, but Red is Swift announcing that she now belongs to the world. Taking the sting out of that is that she still looks fucking adorable in a cowboy hat. Which is more than you can say for Miley Cyrus.